photography stephen tayo

Photographing the beautiful boys at Ghana’s Chale Wote Festival

Lagos-based Stephen Tayo headed to the alternative arts festival in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, to document the street style


Last month, the Chale Wote Festival unfolded on the streets of Jamestown, one of the oldest districts in Ghana’s capital, Accra. The week-long event has been bringing alternative art, music, dance, and performance to the city since its launch in 2011. And while it’s a small event, it punches hard – giving wide visibility to the thriving contemporary art scene in Ghana, and to an extent Africa.

One of the exhibitors at this year’s celebration was London-based artist Akinola Davies. The Dazed 100er – who was raised in Nigeria – unveiled his collaboration with singer and producer Klein, titled “Marks Of Worship”, alongside his video for Matthew Herbert’s “The Boat That Brought Me Here”, at the National Theatre of Ghana. Davies remarks, “It’s centred around artists working together. You feel like you are really part of something unique, quite ancestral – a festival that’s its own thing, unconcerned with the standards of the west.”

As well as attracting prodigious talent, the event – which features painting, photo exhibitions, interactive installations, live performances, music, and even sports – is known for being a mecca for street style, and for fashion that goes against the grain of what is normally seen of Africans in western media. To capture everything, Nigerian photographer Stephen Tayo visited Jamestown to photograph festival-goers in all their glory. Below, the Lagos-based image-maker discusses all things Chale Wote.

“There’s actually no event in Nigeria where people can totally express themselves like this... Everybody is out there giving their best looks, leaving their mark, and channelling their ego” – Stephen Tayo

What does Chale Wote represent to you?

Stephen Tayo: It’s a coming together of black artists, celebrating each other and learning from each other. It’s a space for black people to see the amount of beauty that exists within Africa. It’s where you can be a man dressed like Beyoncé and nobody is going to say anything because anything goes at Chale Wote. There’s actually no event in Nigeria where people can totally express themselves like this.

How would you describe the fashion at Chale Wote?

Stephen Tayo: Everybody is out there giving their best looks, leaving their mark, and channelling their ego. For many people, Chale Wote is where you can be who you dream to be for a day – however crazy that looks – and then go back to your reality. Or if that is your everyday style, then Chale Wote is a place where you can be you fearlessly.  

Why did you decide to shoot only men at the festival?

Stephen Tayo: I love shooting all genders but on this occasion, I wanted to showcase how men explore fashion at Chale Wote, capturing different guys in their glory.

What is your favourite image that you captured at Chale Wote?

Stephen Tayo: My favorite image is the guy with the dress made up of the pride colours. It was such a strong visual because it says so much about freedom. I think that people’s freedom is as important as their existence.

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